Penn-Trafford clips Norwin on OT goal for WPIAL Class AAA girls soccer title
Mackenzie Aunkst brought the game to a halt before bringing the crowd to its feet.
The Penn-Trafford senior midfielder came set with the ball at the top right corner of the penalty stripe.
She had two options and about two seconds to decide what to do: shoot or pass?
Just like she did in the semifinals, Aunkst went for the helper over the shot, and it was magical for the Warriors.
Junior Kiley Dugan took a cross from Aunkst and headed in the winning goal with 11 minutes, 7 seconds left in overtime as Penn-Trafford edged past Norwin, 2-1, to win the WPIAL Class AAAA girls soccer championship Saturday at Highmark Stadium in Station Square.
It is Penn-Trafford's first title since 2003 and second overall.
"I was going to shoot it, but looking at the net, and I thought maybe it was a bad angle," Aunkst said. "I kind of saw Kiley running in and I crossed it, so it was like, perfect timing. I looked for that one extra pass.
"This is the best day of my life. Beating Norwin. Not letting them beat us all year? That's awesome. Ending their streak of championships? That's awesome."
While Norwin took most of the shots in regulation, Penn-Trafford attacked in overtime, and it led to a championship.
"It's so excting … the girls deserve this," Penn-Trafford coach Jackie Bartko said. "It makes the win a little sweeter because it's that hometown rivalry to win it all. It's surreal.
"We kept telling them we're not leaving here with crying girls or silver medals. We wanted the gold medals."
Dugan was simply there waiting to plunge home the title-winning score.
"I saw Kenzie coming. She was flying. She dribbled through everyone and did all the work," Dugan said. "I knew she was going to cross it because she doesn't like to shoot, which she should.
"Against a team like Norwin, you just have to go for it. You have to give it your all. Throw your whole body in front of it. That's what I did, and it worked out."
Senior Hannah Nguyen added a goal for the second-seeded Warriors (17-3-3), who just seem to have Norwin's number this season.
As for the No. 4 Knights (17-2-1), the jig is up. The Knights were denied a third consecutive title. No girls soccer team has three-peated in the WPIAL's largest classification.
"Our girls picked it up after that goal that we had scored on us," Norwin coach Lauren Karcher said. "They maintained composure and didn't back down. And in the second half, we maintained the majority of play, so we're proud of the way the girls played. We had a ton of chances. We just couldn't get one in the net."
Penn-Trafford beat Norwin, 1-0, in their first meeting and the teams tied, 0-0, in their second section meeting.
They played 180 minutes of stalemate soccer in those games and produced just one goal by Lauren Stovar. This time, two scores happened in about a minute in the first half.
It was 1-1 by halftime in their third meeting — their first clash in the WPIAL playoffs since 2002 and their 19th one-goal game since that season. Penn-Trafford won 11 of those games.
Nguyen gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead when she dribbled up the right-center of the field, taking a touch pass from Stovar, and blended into a 3-on-1 breakaway. She shot a low liner that barely got off the turf but slipped past Knights keeper Sam Wexell for a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute.
"As I saw the ball bounce and hit her head, I knew it was going in," Nguyen said. "Every time we go against them, we give it our all. You only get a few opportunities a game, so you know you have to take your chances when you have them. They are rare."
Nguyen plays with several Norwin players with the Riverhounds Academy.
"I love playing with them and against them," Nguyen said.
The Warriors' sideline was still celebrating when Norwin answered.
Alyssa Victor set up for a routine free kick on the far sideline and showed her pinpoint accuracy isn't just effective in the passing game. Her zinging kick from about 45 yards came in high, somehow did not touch anyone, and bounced into the right side of the goal to make it 1-1 with 2:33 until halftime.
Aunkst fired a shot just high with about five minutes left in regulation. A Penn-Trafford corner kick was redirected in front but Wexell made the grab in the 80th minute.
"After the second half, we said that was not our best," Bartko said. "We held on and told them it comes down to who wants it more. Both teams are so skilled and so talented, we just had to keep fighting."
Warriors goalie Megan Giesey stood tall in net, making 12 saves. Wexell had five.
"Our defense and goalie held us in that game and gave us the opportunity to attack," Bartko said. "It was a great effort from the whole team. My senior year, we made it to the state playoffs but didn't really win anything so this is huge. It's a long time coming. Now we get to see our own banner in the gym, which is awesome."
Norwin and Penn-Trafford have played 46 times since 1997. Penn-Trafford has won 25, Norwin has 18 wins and they have tied three times — twice in the last four years.
"P-T is a great team," Karcher said. "We've said that for four years now."
Both teams begin play in the PIAA playoffs Tuesday. If they win first-round games, they will play each other in the state quarterfinals
Penn-Trafford plays North Allegheny (13-7-1), the WPIAL's third-place team. Norwin gets District 6 champion State College (18-6). Times and sites are yet to be announced.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.